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This is my tribute to Irrfan, says Ashvin Kumar as he puts debut film Road To Ladakh online for fans

The National award-winning filmmaker recounted how Irrfan Khan helped him to get his first project made.

Our Correspondent

Filmmaker Ashvin Kumar has shared his debut film, Road To Ladakh, for viewers on YouTube as a tribute to his first lead actor, the late Irrfan Khan. Khan died in Mumbai on 29 April after a two-year battle with cancer.

Speaking to the IANS news agency, Ashvin Kumar said, "I wrote Road To Ladakh keeping Irrfanbhai in mind. I needed his support and he did that quite willingly. I remember when we were in Delhi before leaving for Ladakh, that evening Bhai met with an accident. He injured his wrist. He had all the medical reasons to back out as I was not paying him and he was voluntarily supporting the film. But he said, ‘I promised you, I will keep my word.'

"The more I got to know him, my respect for him as an individual amplified. He did not know back then that he had high-altitude sickness. We discovered that once we went to Ladakh. He was sick, with an injured wrist and living in extreme weather conditions inside a tent, like all of us. But he did not give up. He constantly supported us."

Describing the film on YouTube, Ashvin Kumar has written, "He knew this was my first film. He probably figured I didn't know what the hell I was doing — dropping out of film school, on a hare-brained quest to Ladakh to make a film which would eventually teach me how to make films. He must have believed in this debutant enough to forgive his fee, battle terrible altitude sickness, a broken arm... it was that faith that launched my film career. His words were: 'You are special, believe it, you will go far.' So, this rare Irrfan film. For a man as reclusive, introspective, sensitive — for a hermit like him, this may be a fitting tribute. He was anonymous when he made this film and is now returned to anonymity."

The film follows the journey of two complex individuals as they come across each other on the road to Ladakh. Ashvin Kumar became the youngest Indian filmmaker to be nominated for an Academy award when his short film, Little Terrorist (2004), was shortlisted in 2005. The filmmaker, whose latest film was the controversial No Fathers In Kashmir (2019), said, "I just realized he had so much to offer. He changed the scene in ‘alternative cinema' and I wanted to make more films with him. In a way, emotionally, I feel cheated! Irrfanbhai left too soon."